By Sam Sooppersaud
Saturday, August 17, 2019, was a lovely day for a cricket match! With approximately one thousand cricket fans in attendance at the Baisley Pond Park Cricket Field, in Queens, New York could attest to that fact, and that is precisely what they got, a lovely day for a cricket match. In fact, we had two cricket matches.
The occasion was the playing of the Annual Indo-Caribbean Federation Cricket Cup. The weatherman cooperated and gave us a gorgeous sunny day, although earlier there was some fear that the rains would come and spoil the day. But I suppose Mother Nature used her female charm on the weatherman, and we had a gorgeous day for our games.
Unlike the past twenty-eight years of the ICF sponsored game, this year’s schedule was a two-game affair. A Masters game consisting of the players who had taken part in past games, and now 45 years of age and older, and the regular game consisting of the present league players around New York City. In both games, it was Guyana vs. A Caribbean Invitational Xl. The idea behind playing a Masters game was to “bridge the old with the new.” This worked really well as there was great interaction among the older and younger players.
The games were dedicated to the memory of the late Guyanese cricket journalist Shan Razack who passed away earlier this year. Shan was a stalwart in his field and contributed immensely to the game in Guyana and the United States. On this day also, the Indo-Caribbean Federation used the occasion to honor two gentlemen who contributed to the sport in so many ways.
During the interval between matches, Sudesh Dhaniram was honored for his dynamic cricket career representing Guyana and the United States. Dhani was a “punisher” to bowlers. Not many bowlers whom he faced could truly say that they were spared the wrath of his blade. As an off-break bowler, he dominated batsmen. The other gentleman honored was diminutive former Guyana and West Indies Test cricketer Joseph Solomon. In his playing days for Guyana, Joe was one of the three “hitmen,” the other two being Basil Butcher and Rohan Kanhai. In a Shell Shield match against Jamaica in the late ‘50s, the combined scores for the three was 474 runs. Kanhai 195, Butcher 125, and Solomon 154. In a Test match in 1961 West Indies vs. Australia, Joe threw down the stumps to run-out Ian Meckiff and to record Test cricket’s first-ever Tied Test.
It was a fun day at the park with lots of food and drinks, gyrating music provided by DJ Ricky Kissoon, New York Sound System in-depth commentary from Lenny Achaibar and Carl Bennett, with great color commentary from young Matthew Achaibar, not to mention the excellent live show with gyrating Bollywood dancing and karaoke singing by local artistes. All around the park, there were groups of friends enjoying good food and their favorite beverages. Some fathers were even spotted playing cricket on the sidelines with their young sons. I had a great time. I met up with and sat in the company of some guys with whom I played cricket in the ‘80s.
The Masters’ fixture was the first game. Guyana Masters batted first. Sudesh Dhaniram, who captained the side, seemed not to have lost a stride from his younger playing days. He was masterful in his stroke play. His square cuts, sweeps, and on-drives were pleasing to the fans’ eyes. They came to see Dhani, and he did not disappoint. Guyana Masters made 167 runs for the loss of four wickets in their allotted 20 overs. Sudesh Dhaniram, 53, Marlon Kallicharran, 37, Zamin Amin, 27, and Telston Johnson, 25. David Mohamed and Glen Lorick grabbed one wicket each and Gilbert Phillips had 2 for 21. In reply, Caribbean Masters fell for 111 runs. The only significant scores came from Ayaz Lodi, 30, and Basit Khan, 20. The team’s demise came at the hands of Sudesh Dhaniram 3 for 8, Zamin Amin 2 for 7 and Sohan Das 4 for 15, with Guyana Masters winning the game by 56 runs.
In the nightcap, the Caribbean Invitational Xl won the encounter over Guyana. The Caribbean Invitational Xl batted first and posted 221 runs after a shaky start. Andrew Davis, having been dropped when on 23 went on to score 64. Other significant scores came from Dino Chowenaam, and Troy Haley with 30 runs each, John Ross Campbell, 40. Bowling for Guyana, Mark Lionel 3 for 15 and Deveshwari Prasad 2 for 42 were the principal wicket-takers. In reply, Guyana fell short by 46 runs. The hard-hitting Derek Narine scored 38, Jonathan Foo, 29, and Nick Chinkoo, 25. The left-arm spin of Dino Chowenaam was too much for the Guyana batsmen to handle and he ended with figures of 4 for 23 assisted by Carlton Senior 2 for 24.
Cricket fans that turned out at the park feasted on some excellent cricket. The Guyanese supporters saw their team go down to defeat for the fourth successive year. But, whether his or her side won or lost, everyone had a great time at the park.